Marijuana Legalization and Decriminalization:
As more states work to legalize medical and recreational marijuana, the reform process across the nation continues to attract attention and gain momentum. Currently, there are 23 states that have passed law that permits medical marijuana in some form. Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington are all states that have passed laws to legalize recreational marijuana use in some form. There are just under a dozen states across the U.S. that will consider legalizing marijuana in 2016 and there are many other states and city’s taking smaller steps to reform, such as decriminalizing marijuana. The city of Pittsburgh is scheduled to vote on decriminalization of marijuana next week and the state of Delaware has already approved decriminalization across the board for residents there. The law to decriminalize marijuana in Delaware is making headlines now because the law just went into effect on Friday, December 18, 2015.
Not to Be Confused:
Decriminalization is not the same thing as legalization, not even close. It is however a step closer to overall reform of marijuana law and is seen by many advocates of marijuana reform as a step in the right direction. Legalization of marijuana makes it legal to possess, use, sell, and distribute marijuana. Legalized marijuana can be regulated and taxed by the state for tax revenues. Decriminalizing marijuana does not make possession legal, but it does reduce the penalties associated with possession of small amounts of marijuana. This is what is happening now in Delaware.
Delaware’s Decision to Decriminalize Marijuana Begins:
Marijuana decriminalization went into effect in Delaware Friday which means that in most cases, a person determined to be in possession of small amounts of marijuana in the state will likely not see prison time. Specifically, the decriminalization law in Delaware makes possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by an adult a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 dollars. Simple possession of marijuana by persons under 18 remains a criminal offense and for persons 18 through 21, a first time offense will result in a civil penalty.
Advocates of marijuana reform believe that small steps such as decriminalization will lead to the eventual defeat of federal prohibition. Right now, although states are working on state-specific marijuana reform laws and making progress, the federal government still lists marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. This means that marijuana is listed with other drugs like heroin and ecstacy which are strictly prohibited. Decriminalization state by state, could be one path that leads to the end of federal prohibition.